November 30, 2022
Mine Okubo was best known for her 1946 illustrated memoir, Citizen 13660, which depicted her incarceration at Tanforan and Topaz. While that book brought her the most acclaim, Okubo was a prolific artist prior to WWII, and continued to draw, paint, and create other works until her death in 2001.
A recently published collection in the Densho archives includes dozens of letters that Okubo sent to her longtime friend, Yuriko Tsukada (née Domoto). She often included missives about art and life, and would tuck small prints of cats, chickens, and other animals in with her letters. Tsukada followed Okubo’s career closely, and the collection includes numerous brochures and posters related to her dear friend’s long career as an artist.
Included in the collection is Okubo’s illustrated manuscript, “Jingle, Jingle, Jangle” — a satire featuring invading aliens who don Santa Claus suits. The book is a departure in style and theme from much of her other work, but includes familiar notes of playfulness and social commentary. In a letter sent in September 1990, Okubo requested that Tsukada send a letter of support pledging the purchase of 50 books or more to her publisher so that it could be published in time for the Christmas holiday season. Tsukada obliges with a letter that expresses her enthusiastic support of the project, and a pledge to purchase 50 copies.
The book was never published – a “painful disappointment” for Okubo — but thanks to Tsukada’s preservation of several versions of the illustrated manuscript, we are able to share a draft with you here. The illustrations appear beneath a brief synopsis written by Okubo.
Jingle, Jingle, Jangle
(A brief resume of the running story, as portrayed in the drawings. – Mine Okubo)
The Aliens from Far Land, disturbed by the missiles and satellites fired at them by Earthman, decide, in self-defense, to investigate the Earth and the Earthman by launching a silent invasion there. Groups of Aliens dressed as Santa Clauses — a perfect disguise to hide their real purpose, since Santa Claus is a symbol of peace and good will — are chosen as spies; the time: Christmas season, when the Earth people are engrossed in the holiday rush and spirit;·the testing ground: New York City.
The better to keep their mission secret, the Aliens’ first landing place on Earth is on the silent snowlands of the North Pole. They leave their strange space craft, shed their space suits and change into Santa Claus costumes, boarding jet planes. On a dark, cold winter night, they arrive over New York City. The Santa Aliens parachute to Earth, alighting on the streets of New York. At once they take up strategic spy stations, mingling with the people and losing themselves among the rest of the Santa Clauses.
But the operation is doomed almost from the start. The unexpected tumult, the dreadful hustle and bustle everywhere, and the strange goings on on Earth, “Unalien the Aliens.” The operation backfires, ending in complete failure.
The Santa Aliens, utterly confused and prostrate, are ready for the psychiatrist’s couch. Lost in the crowd, one is haplessly and hopelessly enlisted among the homeless and the welfare. Many of them have become like the native New Yorkers.
The drawings, with brief captions, aim to gently and subtly satirize the people of a big city and their lives in this rat-race age. Without ridiculing or offending, attention is focused on some of the aimless and insane aspects of our daily lives. The drawings themselves, with a minimum of text, call upon the imagination of the reader to supply an entertaining poignant story.
Editorial note: This was one of several drafts shared with Densho and the pages were out of order when we received it; the order below is our archivist’s best guess based on Okubo’s synopsis.
By Natasha Varner, Communications and Public Engagement Director
All images courtesy of the Yuriko Domoto Tsukada Collection and are protected by copyright. You must ask permission from the rights holder if you re-use or publish it elsewhere, unless your project falls under a fair-use exception.